Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chess Politics - Really Really Suck!

This headline says it all, from First Post:

Man abducted by aliens beats Karpov in chess vote
Controversy in Siberia as eccentric Kirsan Ilyumzhinov wins battle to head governing body of chess [The election was held in conjunction with the Chess Olympiad being held in Mansky Kamsky, Siberia, not exactly a "must see" tourist destination]

By Jonathan Harwood
The world of chess has been thrown into chaos after former Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov failed in his bid to become head of the sport's governing body, losing out to a multi-millionaire Russian businessman and politician who claims to have been abducted by aliens.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is the reigning head of Fide, the sport's governing body, retained the role he has held since 1995 after winning a poll of national federations 95-65. But the result was greeted with chaotic scenes as delegates shouted abuse at each other at their meeting in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk.

Ilyumzhinov has been accused of refusing to let Karpov's supporters address the meeting - even turning their microphones off - and using "bully-boy" tactics in the run-up to the vote. The result has infuriated many who are concerned about the future of chess under the leadership of the eccentric Russian, who was stripped of the leadership of Kalmykia, a small, oil-rich Buddhist region near the Caspian Sea earlier this year after claiming to have met aliens.

He has also introduced several controversial tournament rule changes and Malcolm Pein, the International Master who writes on chess for the Telegraph, said this month that Ilyumzhinov "has been the ruin of chess".

Karpov had the support of the English, French, German, Swiss, and US chess federations, but their influence was unable to sway the smaller nations who backed the incumbent. However, as many as 56 countries voted by proxy at the meeting. The Guardian claims that Zambia voted on behalf of Kenya, China for Burma and the UAE for Kuwait.

CJ de Mooi, the president of the English Chess Federation told the newspaper: "It was unbelievable. This was a farce of a vote. You wouldn't believe the blatant breaking of rules and Fide's written statutes. It's amazing. There wasn't even a pretence of fairness and free speech."

Ilyumzhinov hit the headlines earlier this year after he told Russian TV how aliens wearing yellow spacesuits had appeared on his balcony in 1997, taken him aboard their ship and flown him into space.

Shortly after that admission he lost his job as leader of Kalmykia after MPs raised concerns with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that he might pass state secrets on to the aliens that he claims to have met.

Despite his controversial views about extraterrestrials he retained the support of the Kremlin in his capacity as the head of Fide and was the official Russian candidate for the role. But that may have been down to the complex workings of Russian political favouritism. Karpov was backed in the campaign by his arch-rival from the 1980s Garry Kasparov, who is an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin.

Since winning the vote, Ilyumzhinov has offered Karpov the vice-presidency of the federation, but after accusing his rival of incompetence and corruption during the campaign and questioning his sanity, it seems unlikely Karpov will accept the offer.

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